Summer Guide: A Deliberately Vague Guide to OC Mines

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The Historical collection of the First American Financial Corporation


According to our friend Chris Jepsen of the Orange County Archives, tin was discovered near Trabuco Canyon in 1877. After the Santa Ana Tin Mining Co. was incorporated in 1901, more than $1 million was spent sinking thousands of feet of shafts and tunnels, none of which yielded an ounce of tin. Jepsen's OC History Roundup blog cites a 1969 panel of the Orange County Historical Landmarks Project, which concluded the Tin Mine was one of the best preserved mines in the county. "Not only are the old shafts and cut tunnels preserved," the panel found, "but the old mill, laboratory and a few other old buildings still stand." Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, though, the entire site has since been scrapped. That's not to say some vigilant adventurer won't find a trace of the operation. If you do, let us know. Happy hunting.

Silverado Canyon didn't get its name for nothing. The canyons high above Orange County's citrus groves and broad beaches are perforated with mines. An old ledger housed in the Orange County Archives bears signatures on hundreds of claims filed a century ago by those in search of silver, tin, gold and oil. While those hunting for a connection to Gold Rush history need look no farther than their own back yard, be warned: Exploring mines is inherently dangerous, and a little common sense goes a long way.

In other words, stop reading here. Actually, don't. Because the Weekly doesn't want to make it too easy for every gold-crazed trespasser to traipse across some animal's pristine habitat, we'll let you do your own sleuthing for the exact directions to the locations discussed here.

Clue: Check the Internet. But bear in mind the area's unique geology brings added hazards, including tunnels with low oxygen levels and deadly gases. And with hundreds of shafts in the area, some are certain to be on private property.

Published on May 23, 2012